Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The boy I named B

I saw him sitting hunched, his head bent downwards, his clothes bedraggled and shoes slovenly. The curly black mass of hair had now turned disheveled and tangled. He made no effort to look up when I first tried speaking to him. When he did, he looked bleak and barren oblivious of me talking to him. I did not keep a count of days but it must have been more than a week that I had been seeing this boy, barely in his teens, sitting in a dusty corner of hustling Kalkaji's Foot Over Bridge.

As I walk from the metro station onto the FOB everyday amidst a hoard of hurried passerbys I come across sundry occupants who proffer unflappable and unfluctuating banality to the muted green pathway. Conspicuous among them is a toothless old lady wishing me a husband in return for the paltry currency I drop in her bowl till I noticed a  pack of crass bidis peeping from under her mat. I suddenly felt impetuously guilty for having measurably sponsoring her supply of tobacco all this while. The first time I saw this boy whom I am going to call B is when he was climbing up the stairs. Compared to his condition now he had then seemed rustic, cleaner and was smiling. There was nothing flaky and peculiar about him for me to notice or admonish. However I saw him walking around the stairs again the next day. In the dust of pedestrian humdrum B, the old lady, the saffron clad astrologers and passerbys, all got painted in the single monochrome of  unrelieved dullness.

It was only after about a week that I started noticing his immutable presence. The next day when I drew a blank as I tried speaking to him I did not read on the way back home as I generally do while leaning on a pillar and was instead contemplating on what could have possibly made a teenaged boy sit on a grubby unswept  FOB for days. Does he have parents or relatives? What does he eat? Does he get up to have water from somewhere?.

Was it a coincidence but the next day in metro there were big posters screaming the number 1098 to call incase you are to see a child in distress. I saw B undeviated from the same place and made up my mind to call that number once I reach my shared working space. I found a quiet corner and got little edgy that you do when you ascertain that a chain of events you are about to start will impinge on someone's life. The call was picked up in Mumbai and the lady told me she would pass the message in Delhi office and they would get back back to me. In half an hour I got a call from someone in Delhi. She took the address and confirmed the authenticity of the call . She made it apparent that they do not indulge beggars and drug addicts and wanted me to validate that he was neither. I had never seen him beg but I was precarious of B being on drugs. The flabbergast look could have been ordeal of being on roads or could have been predicament of drugs too. If anyone is to judge him on his appearance and bearing there is not much to discern him from a junkie. I was forthright with her and assured her that he did need help and badly at that.

On the way to lunch with my co-workers I got a call from childline(1098) worker. He was at the FOB and wanted me to identify B. Again it could be a co incidence because we were driving right under that FOB at that very moment. I fervently apprised the events to my co workers and they were more than ready to halt and help in any way they could. As we climbed up the stairs I saw a person with an id card dangling from his neck trying to engage B in a conversation. He did not seem to have much luck. We introduced ourselves and he assured me it was a legitimate call for help as it was not safe for B to be on streets. He made a call to another colleague for help because B was unresponsive and apathetic. He feared B might get aggressive if he tries too hard. In the meanwhile he had called the police  to help him take to a hospital and get necessary tests done. He assured us that now we should just trust him to take charge of the situation as its all in a day's work for him

Now that its all done and I felt it was all destiny as I saw the number 1098 calling out to me. I sometimes think about him. Who is B, how did he end up on streets? Was he a survivor, a petty delinquent or lost. Where must have he been now? Was he better off under the open sky with swarm of people walking past him? Did I help send him to some impervious sanctuary or some disparaging disease infected hole in a wall we read about in books. The very idea makes me shudder and immerse in trepidation. I know I changed the course of his life but I hope for better. In my head I had made an assumption of knowing what is good for him. Would the facts change from a  different vantage point? That is something that perturbs me. I deal with the vexation of not taking the numbers to inquire after him. Maybe I should have foregone my lunch and accompanied  the childline workers to make sure B was in good hands. What I do make sure is that I think of him in prayers. Does anybody know of 1098 helpline in detail and how they function?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

How we sanction rape?

In times like these when rapes are committed with impunity and reported by media with pragmatism the reactions though conspicuous are varied. Most of them are being directed towards someone or something indiscernible. Some decorously at the rapist and some at the government urging them to bring in the medieval stone pelting and public hanging laws to satisfy the barbaric and vulgar sapidity. The most ludicrous ones blame the victim. Only plausible few delve into the role of society. No matter how vociferous or placid our reactions are we cannot deny that perpetrators are not tossed from an extrinsic far away planet. They are the putrid yeild of our decadent society. Dismembering them literally and figuratively will not end the menace. For there is still enough dilapidation in society to be a breeding ground for such perversions. It is no hogwash that we at some level sanction rape. Surprised? Lets first understand why rape is commited.

I do not consider rape as crime of passion or sexual pleasure. I think rape is a crime of control and aggression to hurt, humiliate and debase the victim by using profane language and violence. It is hinged on notion of ownership of female body. Honor is rested in power, the powerful has honor and can deprive the less powerful of it. Hence it is a power and control issue. A lot of answers can be found in these men's own words here

75 percent of the men committed rape out of their sense of entitlement that they deserve sex when they want it and the rest did it for entertainment. Feeling entitled to another person's body and eliciting entertainment out of another person's affliction has nothing to do with sexual pleasure. It has to do with the issue of the way men are brought up in the society. Entitlement to do this act comes from society.

Husbands are exempt from being charged with raping their wives. Here we sanction rape. The Indian army in strife areas is exempt from being charged with rape, so here we sanction it. Every time we curtail a woman’s freedom and choices indulging in victim blaming rather than rapist blaming, we sanction rape. A few years back a woman was raped at 9 pm and the government addressed it by making it difficult to employ women after 8pm. Women were made housebound even though the rape was committed by men, thus sanctioning rape and implying that rape after 8pm is a fair game.

We as a society approve rape by men in certain circumstances. We then allow rapists to prescribe what circumstances are ‘rape-worthy’ and how women should live to avoid them. We never profess men how they should live to avoid raping.

Wearing scantily clad clothing is not provocative in a sexual way. To men, it’s a direct undermining of their power and authority in society. When a woman dresses the way she wants to, she is exerting her own right of choice, which is a dangerous thing in an oppressive society that does all it can to tell people that they are not allowed to do what they want. So what does a man do when a woman 'disobeys' the convention ? He 'teaches her a lesson', and then proceed to defend himself with the tired old  'she was asking for it'. 

When we ask women to cover up, we are telling young men that they are potential rapists and it’s natural for them to sexually assault someone they find attractive. What young minds need to be taught is that no matter how much they want to have sex with a woman, they need her consent. The society needs to accept that – No consent, no sex. Sex without consent equals rape. And only yes means yes. It is excusable to murder someone in self defense but it is never excusable to rape someone under ANY conditions. There are no grey areas here.

The self righteous, sacrimonious upholders of Indian traditions will argue with the help of statistics that rape culture is unIndian as compared to western culture so barring few stray incidents all is hunky dory. What annoys me is that we are more concerned about India’s reputation than about being empathetic to survivors. I really doubt the statistics that there are less rapes in India because marital rape is still not considered a crime, we all well aware of the perils of reporting rape where victims are attacked, slandered and and vilified sometimes even by their own families. Not to mention the rape of children by relatives.

Molestation, groping, stalking, forced kissing – anything that is a sexual violation needs to be held accountable as. All are violations. Many of these violators start out with groping and then escalate to rape.

We need to stop treating women as devalued transferable property. Sometime back there was a very popular post circulating in facebook about a father 'giving away' his daughter to his son in law and requesting him to treat her well as the father has no 'rights' on her anymore. I cringed when I read it. The discrimination and devaluation based on caste or race which is now no longer considered agreeable is still  passed on and glorified in the name of emotions and traditions when it comes to gender. Just replace the phrase giving away my daughter to as with a particular caste or race and how xenophobic the person will sound. Now replace daughter with son. How does that sound?I am going to unruffle a few feathers here but no culture should have blind immunity to treat a certain section of people as slaves to be given away. 

Until we stop treating women as second class citizens and property with transferable rights confining them to lower echelons of society no amount of death sentences and stone pelting will curb rape.